I raced the Prefontaine Classic

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Pre is the premiere track meet in the US, the only Diamond League meeting on American soil. Every year, the best of the best converge on Eugene, Oregon. It’s my second year racing the 1500m at this meet. Last year I went out hard, sharing the lead momentarily. The pack overtook me, and I ended up barely beat at the line by another American, Brenda Martinez. This year, the plan was to stay in the back, let the race play out, and kick to pick up any carnage on the final lap.

In terms of process goals, I executed the first part well. I felt more aware in this race than I have in past years. In my view, I had been treating 1500s like long 800s: go out hard, and try to not die more than the other people. But that’s not how the race is best run (it’s usually more of a sit and kick situation, with a negative split between the first and second half).

But if you are playing the waiting game, there has to be a switch. On Saturday, everyone started gearing up for their move with 400m to go, and I just… didn’t. I had been keying off Shelby for the first three laps, and her race was the picture of how this plan is supposed to work: she moved up starting at 400m, and unleashed a monster kick coming down the home stretch, to win the thing.  She’s been crushing workouts, and it’s transferring to competition. This is a huge win for her.

My last 400 was slower than my other laps. The end result was a poor place, and a slower time than last year. Part of that may have been mental, when people started pulling away and I didn’t have it, maybe I let a few more seconds slide. But there was also a physical component.

After the race, all I can say to Jerry is that I felt… tired. I’m not a cheetah waiting to pounce, I’m more a cheetah at the end of a long run, who wants to get off my feet and curl up. That is not the ideal spirit animal!! He sees improvement with the way I handled the first part, and admonishes me to keep head to the grindstone. It’s all a part of the program.

Photo by How Lao

Jerry came for the workout

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While we are at altitude camps, a coach comes about once a week to oversee a session, either Jerry or Pascal. The specifics are the same if Jerry is at the track or texting the instructions. But I get more nervous when he’s there. I want to give a good performance. This is complicated by the fact that he usually travels for the hardest workouts. And Tuesday was a doozy.

The original plan was 2 x 2 mile tempo, followed by some 300s. I struggled in the tempo, and he ended up altering the second one (gave me a break at the mile to gather myself). That meant I was able to finish with some dignity. But it definitely wasn’t a knock it out of the park situation.

I want a knock it out of the park situation.

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A special flow happens when workouts start clicking, a shared secret begins to grow between athlete and coach. You both know that a flame has been lit. To the outside world, everything is as it was. But to the inner circle, new potentials are unfolding. They are still just dreams, but there’s a growing evidence that the dream isn’t unrealistic. The risks, and hard work, and educated guesses, they are starting to show results. Nothing big, but enough to make you want to dream more, and bigger.  Anyone who’s worked on a successful project or collaboration in its early stages would know that sensation. The ultimate flow state is one that’s shared.

I love that feeling. I’ve known it with coaches. I see it happening with some training partners now. But the thing is, it’s not a given for me, and definitely not this year. I’m currently telling myself that in order to achieve great things, I have to put in great work. And if my breakthroughs and flow states come too easy, it just means the peak won’t be as high. I’m telling myself that it’s okay to be solid, just solid, and not magical, not yet.

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Jerry gives me get a head nod and reassurance that I’ve come a long way from November. I have. Though I can’t quite shake the feeling that I wish I was the one he keeps talking to after the workout, making plans for summer races. All I can do is acknowledge it and walk to the car. I have to take my dignified fails for now.